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Price Gouging: Angel or Devil?

COVID-19 has caused several incidences of price gouging in my hometown. People are not happy. I'm not either, but I think a lot of people don't realize how much worse the situation would be without it... Price gouging is a crisis-management tool. It's often misunderstood (and frequently hated), but it's the only true way to keep one idiot from hogging what everyone needs. (Bottled water, in my hometown case.)

If not price gouging, then how are stores going to keep one guy from buying ten times the amount he needs, and leaving everyone else with none? "Purchasing limits" don't work, because the idiot gets in line and buys his limit, his wife behind him buys her limit, their son behind them buys his limit, their dog buys his limit, etc. Or the idiot simply makes multiple trips in quick succession. Either way, the problem of hoarding remains.

However, if you raise the price to the point that people can afford to buy what they need, but just barely, it prevents team-buying and multi-tripping, because it's just too expensive. It's an inelegant solution, because "just barely" can mean very different things(!)

I wish stores could keep the prices down so that people with lower incomes didn't have to spend so much for what they need, but without price gouging, they may not be able to buy any at all.

I hate gouging. But I hate it because it's a bad solution forced upon all of us by a few self-centered people.

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